ST. PETERSBURG — At that point, Sam Fuld figured the best thing to do was just lay there on the ground at home plate and wait. He was too tired to get up anyway, and he knew it wouldn't be long before his Rays teammates piled on to celebrate one of the wildest ever walkoff wins.
"I wasn't going to try to get up because I'm pretty sure I would have been flattened," Fuld said. "I was exhausted. There was no choice in the matter."
All Fuld did was ramble around all four bases to score the winning run — technically on a triple, then a throwing error — to cap a five-run ninth inning comeback as the Rays beat the Royals 8-7 Wednesday.
"The craziest 360 feet I've ever run," Fuld said. He stuck the landing, too, sliding across the plate head first, rolling over on his back extending his arms above his head then flipping back over — for protection as much as anything — as his mates piled up.
"I'm probably going to be sore (today)," Fuld said.
But it will be a good sore, as the Rays (62-54) remarkably, unexpectedly, and whatever other "-ly" word you can think of, won their third straight and ninth of 13 and remained 8½ behind the wild card-leading Yankees with a three-game series looming in New York.
"How about the fight," manager Joe Maddon said. "That's an outstanding testament to this group of people."
Down 7-3 at the start of the ninth — after a good but not good enough start by Wade Davis and another mistake by rookie reliever Jake McGee, who allowed a three-run homer in the top half — the Rays made history.
It was the first time in their 14 seasons they'd come back from four or more down in the ninth or later to win at home, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, and the second time overall (at Boston, in July 2002). It also was the first American League game since 1959, according to baseball-reference.com data, to end on a triple and error.
The rally started when Matt Joyce singled, his third hit from an unexpected one-night stint in the leadoff spot, and Johnny Damon followed with another off Aaron Crow. Evan Longoria greeted closer Joakim Soria with a double that scored Joyce, and Ben Zobrist's groundout brought Damon in.
Casey Kotchman hustled for an infield single, scoring Longoria to make it 7-6. And after B.J. Upton struck out, Fuld — who was dropped to seventh in the order when Maddon decided to change the already-posted lineup and move Joyce to the top — began his rambling journey.
"You see how the game works out," Joyce said, "and it's just like, 'What, do you have a crystal ball back there or something?' "
Fuld laced the ball to right-center, one-hopping the wall, and with pinch-runner Elliot Johnson scoring the tying run, Fuld made a late decision to try for third. He slid in head first, and the relay from second baseman Johnny Giavotella clipped the back of Fuld's foot and skipped past third baseman Mike Moustakas.
"Perfect throw," Moustakas said.
Fuld heard third-base coach Tom Foley screaming for him to go, picked himself up and dashed — well, tried to run — for home. "There was an elephant on my back the last 90 feet," Fuld said.
Given that Fuld had been uncharacteristically picked third in the eighth when Sean Rodriguez pulled back on a bunt attempt, it was even better.
"Certainly good redemption," he said.